When I first began to really understand and experience the first three cornerstones of the Christian life, I was overjoyed and consumed by my new life of grace alone. I realized there was really nothing left to do but relax, enjoy, and watch as God, in His own time and His own way, was at work in my life, just as He promised He would be as my Father.
And why not? There is so much to appreciate, to revel in, and to be thankful for, in the work of Jesus Christ in saving me at the cross. What fun to watch Him and see what He is doing in my life!
I had rejected, prima facie, the old challenges to “do for Jesus,” which I had heard all my life and even proclaimed myself, but now I began to look at those exhortations in a brand new way. I eventually saw that they were not really challenges for “me to do” at all but promises of what “God will do” in me, as I got out of His way and did nothing but trust my loving Father.
Every command in the Bible is a promise of what He will do by His Spirit within me (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:4). When the multitude asked Jesus what they could do to “work the works of God,” Jesus’ response was, “This is the (not “a”) work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). The only work of God is to trust Him to do all the “doing.”
However, I can remember, eventually, starting to look upward from myself and how I was doing with God (having realized I was doing just fine, thank you, because of the cross!) and look outward to the world around me. I found myself getting interested, first, in politics, the most obvious, immediately relevant, activity, and then in less pressing pursuits—education, the arts, the law, medicine, the marketplace, etc., and how this new take on the gospel would affect each discipline.
I began to see that the gospel—what Jesus did at the cross as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world—is not an end in itself but simply preparation to get me ready to do what I was created to do.
Here is that mission on earth, in a nutshell, as we have discussed in these postings: 1.) to reflect Jesus’ image, individually, in my person; 2.) to rule over the earth for Him as His vice-regent, empowered by the Holy Spirit flowing from Jesus, seated at God’s right hand, through me; and, finally, 3.) to reproduce offspring to follow in my footsteps. Reflect, rule and reproduce—a summary of why I was created.
Understanding this dramatically changes every one of my activities, including those listed above. What if Jesus were there on sight, everyday, wherever I go, whatever I do, expressing His law, love, power, wisdom and insight? Praise God, the gospel tells me, He is! He is there, living by His Holy Spirit through me, in spite of all my sin, ignorance, and unbelief. Believe it, by faith, Robert, because it’s true!
Just as when Jesus Himself walked on the earth in flesh and blood, wherever He went the kingdom of God, the rule of God, went with Him. The very same thing happens today. Wherever His children go, the kingdom of God is there, through each of our mentioned pursuits and everything else we do as well
Nothing illustrates my experience with this concept as does my seven years substitute teaching. Not having taught in the public schools since the late seventies, and having newly moved to the country in rural Washington State in the early 2000’s, I ventured into substituting in the surrounding school districts as a way to “make a few extra dollars.”
It was not what I had bargained for, and I only lasted three days. The changes in the 25 years I was out of public education were incredible. The disrespect, lack of discipline, disinterest, and plain disobedience were a shock to me, and I quit in a huff, mumbling to myself, “What a bunch of hoodlums. You won’t have this teacher to push around anymore, you poor fish!” Over the ensuing years, as I would drive by a group of children waiting for a school bus, I would automatically think of them as prison inmates waiting for the bus to move them to their cells for the day.
Ten years later, I again needed an income boost and ventured once again into what I now knew was increasingly “enemy territory.” I knew the government school system stood against much of the biblical truth that was my standard of authority, but I returned with my eyes wide open.
The kids were still the same (if not worse!), but I had changed. I returned with a much fuller experience of the cross and God’s grace that was poured out on me there. This time I saw the problem students, not as monsters and young thugs, but as waifs who needed to see Jesus and His love meeting them in the classroom on the days I was there.
I would pray as I arrived at the school and went into the building in the morning, “OK, Lord, what do you want to do today? Who do you want to love today? Who do you want me to talk to today? Lead on. Let’s go!”
Over the seven years I was a substitute teacher, I had some amazing experiences. For example, I found many like-minded teachers and administrators who marched to the same drummer I did and who were delightful people. I also once spent half of a class period answering, in some detail, a student’s question: “Mr. Andrews, what did you do for a living?” The answer included a rather detailed description and the functioning of the New Testament church, given to a very interested and fascinated class of high school students.
When I had to quit subbing three years ago because of mobility and energy problems (backpacks on the floor are fatal, unseen, land mines), I was genuinely sad and actually missed it. Kingdom work is exciting!
This autobiographical rendition of Theology Cornerstone #4 – Why Am I Here? (to Reflect, Rule, and Reproduce) wraps up our 4-part investigation of my view of a summary of theology—what I like to call “Theology for Dummies.”. The first three are: What Is God Like? (absolutely sovereign), What Am I Like? (absolutely sinful), and How Does God Relate To Me? (absolutely by grace alone).
The first three represent defining aspects of the gospel, the first edge of the sword of the word of God, i.e., my relationship with God “above me.” The last theological idea represents God’s eternal purpose, His law expressed in His kingdom that lies “beneath me,” the second edge of the sword. The first edge always precedes and is an absolutely necessary prerequisite to the successful use of the second.
How did God plan for that to ever occur on the earth, as the Lord’s prayer assures us He did? We will begin that investigation next week.